Top 5 Tuesday: All-Time NBA Players

After an impressive 4-1 series win, LeBron James finally has the championship ring he has long coveted. The win is crucial to ultimately cementing James’ legacy as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, but for now, LeBron is on the outside looking in. As the debate rages on, THE SPORTS DISPENCER has scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s finest.

Honorable Mentions: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan

5. Larry Bird

A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Boston Celtics star Larry Bird begins our countdown. Throughout his storied career, Bird found success with the help of his well-rounded playing style and high basketball IQ. With career averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, Bird helped lead Boston to three NBA titles, including a seven-game series win over the “Showtime” era Los Angeles Lakers. The series was one link in the legendary saga of the Bird-Magic rivalry. Largely cited as the cause for professional basketball’s 1980s boom, the pair’s heated encounters fueled both careers. Since his retirement, Larry has remained involved in the game he loves. Bird is the first and only person to garner MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year honors.

4. Wilt Chamberlain

Perhaps history’s greatest scorer, Wilt Chamberlain posted mind-boggling numbers throughout his career. While sporting career averages of over 30 points and 20 assists per game, Chamberlain peaked in 1961-62 with a record-breaking average of 50.4 points. A quick jaunt throughout any NBA record book proves the extent of Wilt’s domination. Of the more than sixty 60-point outbursts in league history, Wilt accounted for 32, most notably a 100-point performance in March 1962. Chamberlain may lack Bill Russell’s 11 championships, but in 1960 against Russell’s Celtics, Wilt dominated the Boston big man on the boards en route to an NBA-record 55 rebounds, proving his place as early basketball’s premier player.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Behind his signature sky hook, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar soared to success throughout his illustrious 20-year career. At 7’2,” Abdul-Jabbar towered over opponents, but his finesse and footwork helped the Lakers great total an NBA record 38,387 points. On defense, Abdul-Jabbar was a fearsome shot blocker. Had the NBA tracked the stat in his early career, Kareem would likely be the statistical all-time leader, but even without it, he ranks third in history. Kareem’s size and skill translated to success on both ends of the court and ultimately earned Abdul-Jabbar an NBA-record six MVPs.

2. Magic Johnson

As the undisputed greatest point guard in basketball history, Magic found success at every level. He totaled 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game. Under his leadership, the “Showtime” Lakers took the ’80s by storm, winning five NBA titles over the course of the decade. The well-documented rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird ended in Magic’s favor. In four championship matchups between the two, Johnson won three of four, resulting in two NBA titles and a 1979 NCAA Tournament championship. A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Magic career spanned three decades before it was tragically cut short by HIV in the early ’90s, but had Johnson continued to play, the NBA’s all-time list may have a different king.

1. Michael Jordan

Whether you call him “M.J.,” “Air Jordan,” or “His Airness” — Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with greatness and the obvious choice to top this list. The Bulls star accumulated six championships, six Finals MVPs, five regular season MVPs, and 14 All-Star nods. Jordan totaled an NBA-record career average a 30.12 points per game en route to an NBA-record record ten scoring titles. With his signature drive, MJ proved unstoppable around the basket, and his success continued to spread on and off the court. From Space Jam to the “Flu Game,” from “The Dream Team” to “The Final Shot,” Michael Jordan idealized the NBA and earned a spot as history’s all-time great.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of The Hoops Journal, WikipediaSport in Law

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What If Wednesday: Magic’s Retirement

In a surprise November 7, 1991 announcement, Lakers great Magic Johnson publicly announced his positive test for HIV and his intentions to retire. At the age of thirty-one, Magic ended his career with several quality seasons left in him, but what if he had opted to remain in the league? THE SPORTS DISPENCER analyzes what could have been in this week’s edition of What If.

Lakers Contend

After Magic’s exit, the Lakers suffered a severe decline. In 1990-91, Johnson’s final season, Los Angeles went 58-24, finished third in the West, and earned an NBA Finals birth, but after Magic’s surprise announcement, the Lakers fell to 43-39, finished eighth in the West, and met a quick first-round playoff exit. Los Angeles struggled to make the playoffs en route to their worst season since 1975.

Th Lakers sorely missed Magic on the court. His 19.4 points, 12.5 assists, and 7.0 rebounds were crucial to the team’s 1990-91 success, and without him, Los Angeles failed to produce offensively. Had Johnson continued, his mere presence would have revitalized the lineup and kept L.A. a contender for years to come.

Acceptance of HIV

Since his retirement, Magic has become an HIV/AIDS advocate. The Magic Johnson Foundation has “worked to develop programs and support community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities.” While spreading awareness, Johnson has increased societal acceptance of those afflicted with the disease, but had Magic been able to continue in the NBA, he would have further shown the capabilities of those inflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Birth of a Rivalry

By the time of Johnson’s sudden announcement, the Magic-Bird era had come to a close, and with a 1991 NBA Finals victory over L.A., Michael Jordan established Chicago as the league’s best. The three soon united as part of the “Dream Team” for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. A rising star, Jordan had largely viewed the tournament as the final hoorah for the two NBA greats, and with their exits, the league was his.

Jordan went on to win six titles in the decade, cementing his status as the NBA’s all-time greatest. Had Magic remained in the league, however, that may have not been the case. In his final season, Johnson proved his ability to contend. With a few slight tweaks, Magic’s Lakers would find themselves poised to take on Jordan’s burgeoning Bulls, creating a rivalry for the ages.

* Photos Courtesy of LA TimesIndianLacrosse.com

What do you think? Anything we missed? Any other What If Wednesday suggestions? Comment below and let the discussion begin.